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This article is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

The Word in Time 5: The Wreck of the Pound Chris McCully

5: The wreck of the Pound

And what, after all, will history make of Ezra Pound? Does anyone know what Ezra Pound made of himself? I suppose that, if only we can get him to step out of character for a moment, we could always ask him:

... Beauty is so rare a thing.
So few drink of my fountain.
So much barren regret,
So many hours wasted ...

The problem is that it's almost impossible to get Pound to step out of character - and even when we suspect he stands before us in all the energies of himself, then poets are the worst people in the world to ask about their personalities, intentions or work. Pound, for example, seems to prefer to talk about Chinese ideograms, or monetary policy, or the possible benefits of Fascism, his detestation of Roosevelt, or the medieval troubadours. If he notices our questions at all, he'll neither pause, nor answer us directly, but turns restlessly from subject to subject, from persona to persona, reminding us, briefly, that one of his best-selling collections of verse was called Personae (first published in 1908).

Which Pound? Do we admire the young man who, fresh off the boat from America, sat on the steps of the Venice customs house and dreamed of poetry?

... the waters richer than glass,
Bronze gold, the blaze over the silver,
Dye-pots ...


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